Sometimes I wonder what Western journalists are thinking when they write articles about Russia. Even those who usually produce excellent work seem to turn off their brains or something when they write about Russia.
I found such an article on The Atlantic called How Putin Won the G8 (it isn’t all bad, by the way, as it does make some interesting points). Aside from the ridiculous title (I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t aware that G8 was a contest!), this paragraph contained the most annoying statements:
The reality of current Russian politics is that Putin’s political philosophy is becoming more and more in line with the ideas of leaders such as Deng Xiaoping, Augusto Pinochet, or Hosni Mubarak. He does not believe any longer in the values of liberal democracy and the right of people to self-determination. Moreover, recent changes in Russian political culture — such as the restoration of the Soviet national anthem, the return of the Stalinist “Hero of Socialist Labor” medal under the name “The Hero of Labor,” the unification of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia with the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia, and the canonization of Nicolas II [sic] — indicate that the Russian president is trying to create a political system that would combine the imperial traditions of both Communist and tsarist Russia. Paradoxically, this shows that, unwittingly, Kremlin ideologues agree with the Harvard historian Richard Pipes, who argued that “the roots of Leninism and Stalinism could be found in Russia’s past.”
So, according to this, you either believe in “liberal democracy”, or else you’re a totalitarian fascist/communist/whatever other negative political persuasion we can fit in here? Talk about a black and white view of the world. What about Singapore, for example? Singapore (based on what I’ve heard from people who live there, not my own personal experience) is not exactly a liberal democracy – but it’s certainly not run by people who are like the aforementioned dictators in the quote above. (This is a subject for another article, but I think one could argue that Singapore is better off right now than many so-called liberal democracies.) Putin may not believe in democracy, either – but I certainly wouldn’t classify him in the same breath as I would dictators.
As for the assertion that the Soviet national anthem was restored – no. Just no. That is a factual inaccuracy. The current anthem of the Russian Federation has the same melody as the Soviet-era anthem but absolutely not the same words. I don’t like it when articles imply that the two anthems are the same, because they’re not.
Finally, the last sentence about Richard Pipes just doesn’t make sense. Yes, I know that is Pipes’ view, but what I don’t understand is how Putin’s policies support Pipes’ view. (I’m not sure if this is bad journalism or I am just missing the point.) Yes, in his policies, Putin has harkened back to both imperial and Soviet traditions, but this is more of a means of ensuring support than anything else. He picks the best bits of Soviet history (the hero of labor rewards, for example) and combines them with a desire for Russian imperial traditions (such as elevation of the Orthodox Church). The result is neither Soviet, nor imperial.
The rest of the article actually isn’t so bad. It mainly examines the split between Russia and the West concerning intervention in Syria. (We’ve all heard by now that Russia supports the current Syrian government, but the West, including the United States, supports the rebels.)
What do you think? Do you know of any decent Russia-related coverage in the Western press?